|Marcel Johnson led out of court|
Monday, January 27, 2014
Bristol Twp. man facing 3 Avalon Court murder counts
Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014
Ebony Talley was alive after a Bristol Township man — described as a “friend” — stabbed her multiple times, then, put a plastic bag over her head and set her bed on fire, according to prosecutors.
A neighbor heard the “bloodcurdling” screams of Talley’s 4-year-old daughter — R’Mani Rankins — about a half-hour after police say she saw alleged killer Marcel Johnson enter the apartment at Avalon Court, according to court documents.
“Marcel Johnson viciously and brutally ended their lives,” Bucks County Chief of Prosecution Matt Weintraub said at a Friday press conference to announce the arrest of Johnson in the Nov. 25 murders. “He then incinerated them like human garbage.”
Johnson, 21, was formally arraigned Friday on two counts of criminal homicide and one count of criminal homicide of an unborn child, arson and possessing an instrument of crime. He was returned without bail to Bucks County prison, where he had been incarcerated since Nov. 26 on a minor drug possession charge.
Talley, 22, was five months pregnant with a boy when she was slain, police said.
“Marcel, look at me,” one woman yelled as he was led out of the court. “Look at me. Look at me. You can’t see me. You can’t look at me.”
“I hope they rape your ...,” another woman yelled.
Police had developed Johnson as a “person of interest” within hours of the killings after witnesses, including Talley’s sister, placed him at the apartment and the Bristol Township complex, according to court documents. He previously admitted to seeing the mother and daughter shortly before they were killed and their apartment was set on fire, police said.
Investigators believe that Johnson killed Talley and R’Mani, who were both stabbed to death, then tried to conceal the crime by setting fire to the apartment in the 3500 block of Bristol Oxford Valley Road.
DNA tests confirm that scrapings taken from under Johnson’s fingernails matched Talley’s DNA, Weintraub said.
An autopsy report found Talley had two defensive wounds on her left forearm. Johnson also had a small cut on his finger he said was the result of climbing out of a window at a nearby apartment complex, an affidavit of probable cause said.
At this point, Weintraub said authorities don’t know what motivated the killings.
A neighbor of Talley’s reported to police she heard loud banging the day of the killings. She looked out the peephole of her door and saw a man, whom police believe was Johnson, banging on the door to Talley’s apartment.
About a half-hour after someone let the man into the apartment, the woman told police she heard R’Mani loudly screaming. The screaming continued until the woman said she knocked on Talley’s apartment door, when it “abruptly stopped,” according to court documents.
The woman knocked a second time, but there was no response, so she returned to her apartment. About a half-hour later, the woman said she went to walk her dog when she saw smoke and was told to evacuate, police said.
Firefighters responding to the fire found a pile of burning clothing on the bed in Talley’s bedroom, which was quickly extinguished.
After the fire was out, Talley’s body was discovered face down on the floor of her bedroom with multiple stab wounds. An autopsy found evidence of suffocation, Weintraub said, and significant burns that occurred before she died.
Talley’s daughter was found underneath an overturned couch in the living room. She had a stab wound to her upper chest and third-degree burns on her belly. She was alive and rushed to St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown, where she was pronounced dead less than an hour after authorities say the fire was set.
Witnesses claimed they saw Johnson leaving the complex in a car about 10 minutes before the fire was reported. The car, a 2003 Cadillac, was registered to the woman who held the lease to the apartment that Talley had been subletting for three months. Witnesses said the car had been parked at the complex earlier that day.
The Cadillac was later found parked at another nearby apartment complex and the Pennsylvania license plate had been changed, police said. Police watched the vehicle until shortly after 7 p.m., when Johnson got in and drove away. Police stopped the car and took Johnson into custody for the drug possession charge.
While in police custody, Johnson admitted to police he was at Talley’s apartment before the fire, and was with Talley and her daughter just before their deaths, according to a search warrant in the case. He also admitted taking the Cadillac from the apartment complex parking lot, hitting a parked car and driving to the Ford Road complex, the warrant said.
Johnson also told another inmate with whom he had contact at the Bucks County prison that he killed Talley and her daughter and admitted setting the apartment on fire, burning his own clothes and shoes, according to court papers.
“Marcel Johnson stated ‘Ebony made me kill her,’ and that he had killed the ‘baby’ by stabbing her one time in the upper chest,” the inmate told authorities, according to court documents. Johnson went on to tell the source that he had to kill R’Mani.
“Because she was ‘real smart’ and could identify him,” according to the affidavit.
No decision has been made on whether to pursue the death penalty against Johnson, Weintraub said, though he said the case appears to have the necessary aggravating factors. A decision will be made after Johnson is formally arraigned.
“We consider this crime particularly heinous,” Weintraub added.
After the press conference, a Talley family member expressed “joy” at news that Johnson could face the death penalty.
“You just don’t know what I’ve been through. How could you take my baby,” said Amber Parish, of Vineland, N.J. “In my heart, I hope and pray they stick it to him.”
Parish described Ebony as “an angel, so smart.”
“She’d light up any room she was in,” she said, tears in her eyes.